I put some time this morning into figuring out the guitar riffs on a
tune called “Relax Your Mind” by Leadbelly, aka Huddie Ledbetter. It
took some sweat so I figured I’d share the result for other people
Here’s an MP3 of the riff: MP3 of the riff.
This is how to play the part:
Notice that the part is in the very unusual key of C#. I think
Leadbelly tuned the guitar down a minor third, so that the E string
was C#, the A string was
F#, etc. Since I don’t tune like that I modified the lowest note in
the piece from low C# to C# an octave above that, on the 4th fret of
the A string. If you feel like tuning down, the note I changed is the first
one in bar 4.
The chords for the song are the same throughout: C#, C#7, F#, C#, C#, G#7,
C#. It’s an eight-bar pattern rather a 12-bar pattern like bar bands
If you want to tweak the sheet music and have Sibelius (the
software I use for notation), here is the source Sibelius file: Sibelius
If you use a digital instrument instead of the analog kind, here’s a MIDI
version of my transcription: MIDI
version of my transcription.
A cool thing about this song is that it’s about road rage, even
though it was written way back in the 1930s. He’s saying that when
you’re getting pissed off about driving you need to take a deep
breath. Given that he was a full bore murderer, I think he knew about
His musical ideas here are strongly influenced by ragtime and early
jazz. He leans on chromatic runs that are close cousins of boogie
woogie. The phrasing is so intricate that in one cadence he touches
almost every pitch in an octave without doing more than three
I probably muffed a couple notes in my transcription, so please
share any corrections you come up with.